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Body image concerns are not just a girl issue



Teen boys are at risk for using severe tactics to lose weight or bulk up for sports

body image, teens, boys, steroids, weight loss

Parents may want to keep an eye on their teenage sons who use shakes and protein powder drinks for losing or gaining weight, bulking up for sports, or for their own focus on body image. The question of body image in teens has generally focused on girls, but boys are also at risk for using unsafe, or untested methods to achieve their idea of the perfect body. 

A recent story in the New York Times points to a rising trend in high school boys turning to over-the-counter supplements like protein powder and creatine, a supplement that helps the body produce energy during exercise.  

The side effects can be serious. In a 2019 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, “muscle-building supplements are nearly three times more likely than vitamins to cause severe medical events including emergency room visits, hospitalizations and death.” The popular creatine supplement has only been tested in adults, says Dr. Matthew Silvis, division chief for primary care sports medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “For adolescents, we don’t have any reason to think that it would be unsafe, but it’s not been studied,” he says.

Since such a focus on weight loss and muscle-building, these teens are also more at risk for eating disorders, such as restricting their diets or compulsive exercising.  Worse yet, these supplements can encourage the use of steroids. 

READ MORE: Discussing depression with your teen.

These days with families isolating together, there may be more opportunities to observe your teens, have open conversations about their health without judgement. As a resource for teens and parents, Dr. Pieter Cohen, an internist with Cambridge Health Alliance, recommends  the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s nutrition guide



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